Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion means a lot of things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. In its sim­plest form, it is the ongo­ing pur­suit of achiev­ing the high­est lev­els of scale, effi­cien­cy, inno­va­tion and prof­it using data and tech­nol­o­gy.

In the con­text of strat­e­gy and oper­a­tions, I have found three keys to effec­tive dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing trans­for­ma­tion.

1. Organization

Change is frus­trat­ing, and it can seem inef­fi­cient at first. Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tions are designed to alter com­pa­ny cul­ture as well as many long-stand­ing strate­gies, process­es and tools.

Orga­ni­za­tion­al chal­lenges are often the biggest hur­dles. Adopt­ing the req­ui­site tech­nol­o­gy or data is the easy part. You can only do those things, how­ev­er, if every­one is equal­ly will­ing to com­mit them­selves to a shared vision — even if it means sac­ri­fic­ing their cur­rent oper­at­ing mod­els.

For exam­ple, if you’re part of a glob­al com­pa­ny that’s man­ag­ing its mar­ket­ing chan­nels sep­a­rate­ly by region, there are sev­er­al changes you can make, shift­ing the team struc­ture to dri­ve greater scale and effi­cien­cy. A sim­ple frame­work that’s easy to remem­ber is to think glob­al and exe­cute local.

Think glob­al” means estab­lish­ing a glob­al frame­work on which all teams can depend on for tech­ni­cal resources, direc­tion, knowl­edge-shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Exe­cute local” means putting trust in the region­al teams to apply your mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy accord­ing to the unique and nuanced require­ments of their local mar­kets.

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is about find­ing that right bal­ance between stan­dard­iza­tion, scale and local­ly rel­e­vant exe­cu­tion.

2. Channel Management

An impor­tant step for any mar­ket­ing team that’s under­tak­ing a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is to rethink its chan­nel man­age­ment strat­e­gy — not who is man­ag­ing each mar­ket­ing chan­nel, but how those chan­nels are work­ing togeth­er. One of the most per­va­sive issues that can dimin­ish your mar­ket­ing return on invest­ment (ROI) is the lack of cross-chan­nel opti­miza­tion. This requires some changes in your cross-chan­nel process­es.

In the pre-dig­i­tal era, a ful­ly inte­grat­ed mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy might tran­spire like so:

• Mar­ket­ing researchers uncov­er insights.

• The cre­ative direc­tor pitch­es a cam­paign idea.

• The media team devel­ops a mixed-media plan.

• The cre­ative team pro­duces assets for each media type (TV, radio, etc.).

• The media buy­ing team nego­ti­ates rates and place­ments.

• The cam­paign goes live across all media chan­nels, result­ing in a con­nect­ed expe­ri­ence across all media touch points.

• Sales go up.

• The client is hap­py.

Every team in this exam­ple might be mea­sured against a unique set of met­rics in their respec­tive dis­ci­pline.

Today, apply­ing the same rules and stand­alone mea­sures of suc­cess across your mar­ket­ing chan­nels could be flawed or mis­lead­ing. Take social or con­tent mar­ket­ing, for instance. For years, mar­keters defend­ed the effi­ca­cy of these chan­nels by argu­ing that their func­tions are not designed to direct­ly influ­ence sales. We refer to these activ­i­ties as “top-of-fun­nel tac­tics.”

The risk is that if you can­not cor­rect­ly attribute val­ue to those activ­i­ties, they will be the first to go when bud­gets tight­en because they don’t gen­er­ate sales. What val­ue should you attribute to those activ­i­ties? The answer presents itself when you man­age your dig­i­tal chan­nels in a tru­ly inte­grat­ed way.

Properly Managing Your Digital Channels

If all you look at is last-touch attri­bu­tion when ana­lyz­ing your sales per­for­mance, you may think the best con­vert­ing chan­nels are paid search and dis­play retar­get­ing. These chan­nels do well in terms of con­vert­ing new cus­tomers because they’re typ­i­cal­ly focused on the bot­tom of the fun­nel — the stage of the cus­tomer jour­ney when peo­ple are most primed to shop or buy some­thing.

We eas­i­ly for­get that the bot­tom-of-fun­nel mar­ket­ing tac­tics can only per­form when there’s a fun­nel to begin with. Search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO), con­tent mar­ket­ing, social — those are the chan­nels that devel­op your top-of-fun­nel audi­ence.

The most impor­tant goal for any mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion is to grow and man­age its audi­ence. It all begins and ends with this body of data.

3. Technology

You can build (and define) your audi­ence through every con­ceiv­able cus­tomer touch point and save this infor­ma­tion using a data man­age­ment plat­form (DMP). The DMP can store sev­er­al bits of infor­ma­tion about your audi­ence, includ­ing email address­es, pur­chase sta­tus­es and every mar­ket­ing chan­nel they have inter­act­ed with over time.

For exam­ple, imag­ine your com­pa­ny sells air­line tick­ets, and your SEO team builds a land­ing page about the 10 most roman­tic loca­tions in the Unit­ed King­dom. This page doesn’t men­tion the cost of flights to Eng­land. How­ev­er, the con­tent is intend­ed to inspire prospec­tive trav­el­ers who are con­sid­er­ing a trip to the UK.

A vis­i­tor finds this page (via Google Search) and clicks through to your arti­cle. The vis­i­tor reads more arti­cles and then leaves and doesn’t return for a while. While on your web­site, you mark them using a Face­book track­ing pix­el. All this infor­ma­tion is now stored in your DMP.

Lat­er, you launch a Face­book retar­get­ing ad cam­paign that pro­motes an exclu­sive, low-cost trav­el spe­cial to the UK. You con­fig­ure your cam­paign to serve ads to peo­ple who viewed pages on your web­site relat­ed to UK con­tent.

The vis­i­tor in our exam­ple nev­er sees the ad. Why? Because a few days before the cam­paign, that vis­i­tor returned to your web­site and pur­chased a tick­et to Paris. Their infor­ma­tion was saved in your cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­ag­er (CRM), which also sends data to your DMP, and you had set up a rule to avoid serv­ing Face­book ads to cus­tomers who pur­chased any air­line tick­ets in the last 60 days.

Who takes cred­it for the pur­chase of the flight to Paris? Which media channel(s) deserves cred­it for sav­ing your orga­ni­za­tion the unspent media dol­lars that could have been wast­ed on this trav­el­er if he or she was served your ad?

Obvi­ous­ly, this is a trick ques­tion.

This is an exam­ple of mar­ket­ing suc­cess that can be attrib­uted to all the dig­i­tal chan­nels work­ing togeth­er, made pos­si­ble by tech­nol­o­gy.

Dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing trans­for­ma­tion nev­er ends, but cor­rect­ly exe­cut­ing these three keys will help trans­form your team mem­bers to become pio­neers of change and inno­va­tion. Your inter­nal process­es become stream­lined, and your capac­i­ty to adopt tech­nol­o­gy and change your orga­ni­za­tion around its abil­i­ties will give your busi­ness a dis­tinct advan­tage over your com­pe­ti­tion.